Let’s hear players in Rupp redo: UK should answer council questions

May 2, 2014

Public and private sentiment about the proposed Rupp Arena Arts and Entertainment District has been on a roller coaster these last few months, roaring to highs when a futuristic design was showcased in January and sinking this month under confusion and disappointment as the Kentucky Senate — bothered by the University of Kentucky’s silence and other uncertainties — passed on appropriating a critical $80 million for the project.

We continue to support Mayor Jim Gray’s aspirational and inspirational vision to transform a blank box with acres of nearby parking into a vibrant urban center. Yet it is past time for a full public vetting of the financing of this complex and expensive project. Fortunately, the Urban County Council is preparing to do just that June 23 at 6 p.m.

Council members scheduled the meeting last week after they were asked to approve $40 million in bonds for the project. Noting that the city has put up most of the money to date, the council felt it was time to get a more complete view before the city antes up again.

So far, discussion has focused on the Rupp Arena portion of the project, and most of the information has come from the mayor’s office and project manager Frank Butler. The council should expand the discussion and the sources.

A lot of the work on the Rupp reinvention has been nuts-and-bolts stuff comprehensible mostly to experts: studies, designs, contract negotiations, number crunching.

The state’s being asked to contribute $80 million to this project and the city $40 million. Plus, the city would be on the hook if arena and convention center earnings fall short and don’t meet the debt payments.

The time has come for all the key players in this project to appear before the council and explain in terms we can all understand where the money will come from and what this project can do for our community and our state.

— Lexington Herald-Leader